Defense In Depth

Fighting against Parkinson’s disease is exhausting, and often makes me feel powerless. It would be easier if there were clear evidence of progress in the fight, but there’s usually not.  As the disease progresses, I am often required to “redefine terms” – one of the ways of doing this is to define “progress” as “no backward movement.”

This ingenious technique usually works, at least partially.  As an example, it’s been used to coerce the Medicare program to continue to spend money on physical therapy for people with Parkinson’s when there is no clear evidence of improvement – as long as you’re slowing down the rate of degeneration, that’s progress. As you can see here, though, the battle continues.

Stress of any kind makes the symptoms of Parkinson’s worse. Physical, mental, or emotional stress, even the “good kind” of stress (such as hard exercise or the excitement  of visiting with an old friend) can make the symptoms emerge full-blown, even if they are normally adequately controlled.  There’s even some anecdotal evidence that a significant traumatic event can cause an acceleration in the progression of the disease.  Recently, I have been a poster child for the effects of stress on Parkinson’s symptoms.

The pit bull attack no doubt has something to do with it.  I’m no less angry about it, but I’m trying to be realistic about the likely outcome, and I’m working through a surprising amount of fear and anxiety as a result of the attack. I’ve received good advice (and other kinds, too) about what I should have done or should do in the future, and I appreciate the concern evident in those comments.  I’ve been chastised for not carrying a pistol or a knife, advised to carry pepper spray or mace, told to squirt the dog with a water bottle, to ride faster, to ride slower, to stop riding, and to just suck it up and accept the fact that cyclists get bitten. For various reasons, none of those solutions is completely satisfactory, but they are comprehensive.

If you read this blog regularly, you no doubt know that I’m an advocate of individual responsibility for self-protection.  I knew it was coming, but although I’m still responsible for my own protection, I cannot provide for it myself any longer. I now rely completely on avoidance of dangerous situations, protection provided by others, or acceptance of risk.  Thank you, Parkinson.

Because of my response to stress of any kind, I would have been more likely to cause myself harm with a gun, knife, mace, pepper spray, or even a water bottle in that situation than I would have been to halt the attack.  Two years ago, I won a challenge coin in a shooting competition. Things change.  I’m sad that they have changed so much.

I have to live in the real world, not a fantasy world where I am just as physically capable as I ever was.  I don’t have to give up, though. I just have to change my approach; to redefine terms.

The world we live in contains pit bulls, wolves, predators of all kinds.  Under different circumstances, at a different time and place, I might have regretfully ended the life of the predator that attacked me. I might not have had to, if he had been prevented from the attack by adherence to existing laws or development of new laws (if necessary). I might have been saved from the attack by a well-meaning, capable bystander or by the police. It’s not likely that ignoring the problem, wishing it away, or pointing fingers would have helped, though.

There’s an information warfare concept that applies here – “defense in depth.” Multiple, overlapping protection mechanisms that are mutually supportive, so that if one fails, another fills the gap.  Laws, training, risk management, technical safeguards, practice, reliance on professionals, reliance on ourselves and each other – they are all a part of the solution.  It’s a complex problem, but we’re smart people, and we are supposed to care about each other.

Are we still talking about dogs and Parkinson’s?


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